No Boundaries:A Bad Boy Sports Romance(10)

By: Violet Paige

“Hey, JJ.”

I thought I was alone. I had let my thoughts drift to places I never should have let them go at the center. Teaching here was my true calling. These kids needed me. And they needed me to get my shit together.

I could relate to them. I thought maybe more than some of the other teachers. There was a part of me that was like them. I had lost my mom at a young age. I knew what it was like to feel that kind of pain. To feel like I had been abandoned. I knew it too well. If these kids were lucky, they had one parent. But looking at JJ, I knew he wasn’t one of those.

“Is it ok if I stay inside?” he asked.

“Don’t you want to play with everyone else?” I asked.

He shook his head. “No. I just want to read.”

He scuffed his feet along the linoleum floor. It wasn’t the worst request he could make.

“All right,” I caved. JJ was one of those kids who was quiet. He’d rather bury his head in a book than play kick ball or tag.

He settled into his desk and pulled a mystery ghost story from his backpack. I pulled out my chair and finally braved my phone. I pulled a news page and started skimming for a headline.

I had been nervous all day. I wondered if there would be news about Hawk. I wondered if I would be called in. Would he need me to testify? Would he have a fair judge? Should I try to call his attorney and offer to make a statement?

Should I call my dad at work and get his advice? I knew that was pointless. He was a huge Sharks fan, but he worked in family court. He couldn’t get involved to help in this situation. Add to that, I hadn’t told him I took a job waiting tables and I would have more explaining to do. I didn’t need that right now.

I looked up when I heard the shuffle of more feet enter the classroom. Recess was over. I sighed when the bell rang overhead. Another day gone. Another lesson taught. The students rushed in, grabbing their backpacks and lunch boxes before lining up by the door. I hurried them down the hall to the carpool line and then to the bus line, dropping them off along the way.

I returned to the classroom and smiled at Hunter.

“So what club do you have today?” I asked, patting him gently on the shoulder.

He shrugged just slightly from my touch. Over time, I had gotten used to his aversion of being close to other people. But there were moments when I could reach out. Show him warmth.

There were a variety of programs set up at the education center for underprivileged kids and their families after school. There was everything ranging from ballet and gymnastics to soccer and swimming.

“I don’t know.” He looked at the floor. “Football, I guess?”

I felt a small wave of relief. Today would be a good day. I wouldn’t have to prod and convince him. Normally he chose not to participate in any of the clubs, but for some reason, football had sparked his interest.

I hoped it pulled him out of his shell.

Something had to work.

“Well, come on then.”

We scurried through the maze of halls past my third grade classroom door and out the exit door to the playground, where just a few minutes ago I had spotted Hunter watching the other kids play.

I couldn’t say what the exact date was that I decided Hunter was going to be my project. Or when I decided that I would do everything I could to watch over him and protect him. It just sort of happened. Like when the leaves changed in fall. It happened in front of my eyes day after day until I was the one responsible to pick him up in the morning from the foster home where he stayed. I enrolled him in the center’s community club program and was responsible for returning him home at the end of the day.

Some days I kept him a little late and we’d get dinner. Or if we had an early release day I’d take him to a movie.

One look at those big green eyes and a face that was constantly covered in smudges. Shaggy blond hair that fell into his eyes and my heart fell for this kid.

“Have fun, Hunter. I’ll be inside grading the writing assignments, ok?”

He had wandered to the outside of the circle. I was worried he might not make it inside the group and would spend the afternoon on the perimeter. I couldn’t hover. I couldn’t intervene every time. I knew that.

“Excuse me, Julie?” I heard someone call my name and I turned on my heels.

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